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Are you challenged at developing lasting relationships with your customers?

I was recently sent a copy of KPMG Nunwood’s report titled B2B Customer Experience: Winning the Moments That Matter. The report is filled with some great nuggets, but I latched on to the phases of relationship connection and moments that matter.

How do you achieve relationship status with your customers? Do you know which moments matter most to them? And which are moments of failure?

When we engage with customers (or, when they engage with us), we are (hopefully) engaging for the long-term, developing a relationship. Some folks question the use of the term “relationship” when it comes to customers, but let’s just use Merriam-Webster’s definition, which tones things down a little: the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other; the way in which two or more people or things are connected.

That connection is what I’m referring to. We want to connect with our customers, not just transact with them. Relationships take time and work, every day; the focus and the desire to keep the relationship alive and strong should never stop because, when it does, the relationship will end. The connection is gone.

In KPMG Nunwood’s report, they outline the key stages of relationship building. Sounds a bit like what happens in your personal relationships, but it’s really not that far off for businesses to consider the same stages, both with their customers (B2B) and among their internal teams.

The following are the six stages, as defined in KPMG Nunwood’s report.

  1. Wooing: the foundations for the future chemistry of the relationship are set during this stage.
  2. Purchase: selection is a key moment that matters, as this is where promises are made and expectations are set.
  3. Honeymoon: occurs immediately after the purchase, when both sides (customer and business) are looking for reasons to reinforce the decision they made to be in this relationship.
  4. Forming: during this stage, customer and company are finding the best way to work together.
  5. Storming: according to the report, this is a critical moment that matters; like in any other relationship, when that honeymoon period ends, reality sets in: the good and the bad. Issues happen, and if they’re not dealt with appropriately, the relationship can sour quickly.
  6. Norming: standards are set and agreements are made on how the relationship with work.

The “Forming-Storming-Norming” stages really solidify the relationship. The better these steps are executed, the longer and stronger the relationship.

Bonding was also considered as one of the stages, but it doesn’t just happen at once but across all of the stages – and often long before the customer engages with a specific company. It happens through experience with your products or services. If bonding doesn’t happen, as we all know, the relationship is doomed.

Clearly, bonding is facilitated and driven by those moments that matter and hindered by moments of failure. In their report, KPMG Nunwood outlines examples of both for B2B companies and their customers along those key stages.

Moments that matter include:

  • Reputation and past practices
  • Demonstrating knowledge and understanding of industry, customer, and products
  • Onboarding and first impressions
  • Delivering on initial promises
  • The storming phase
  • Being flexible, responsive, and committed during times of change
  • Adding value by saving the customer time, money, and effort
  • Anticipating issues
  • Responding to issues
  • Demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence

Moments of failure basically take the form of the opposite of the moments that matter or not taking advantage of moments that matter in a manner that is beneficial to the customer:

  • Reputation damage
  • Failing to connect with customers 
  • Over promising and under delivering
  • Cross-functional dynamics and failing to manage stakeholder relationships
  • Inadequate responses to issues 
  • Inconsistent knowledge about policies and processes from one agent or department to another
  • Quality of relationship manager – people buy from people

Those are just some examples. Know that there are plenty of others way to kill your customer relationships, as you well know.

I previously wrote about Nunwood’s Six Pillars. In this latest report, they not only tie the moments that matter to the six stages of customer relationships but also to the Six Pillars, giving some great guidelines on how to deliver a great customer experience through the lens of the Pillars, as well. Be sure to check out the report for those details.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou